“The truth is more important now than ever.”
August 10, 2019 10:31 AM   Subscribe

Earlier this week, after its first front page headline about Trump's response to the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings sparked a furious backlash, the New York Times amended it for the second edition and executive editor Dean Baquet explained the first headline as more of a technical mistake than a matter of bad judgment, while Trump praised the original headline and Politico's Jack Shafer took issue with the "Twitter multitudes... swinging caltrops and battle axes in protest". But is the furor only about a headline? Or is it an expression of an increasing frustration with the media’s coverage of Trump’s rhetoric, as encapsulated in the words of Beto O’Rourke, "members of the press, WTF?" Is political coverage in the Trump era, as described in a much-retweeted thread by Heidi N. Moore, in a crisis? And if so, what are the solutions?

Jon Allsop notes in Letting Trump off the hook (CJR) that "the Times wasn’t the only offender: numerous headlines and story openers quoted Trump’s words without any effort at context," and Jack Holmes, writing for Esquire, states that "the time is over for asking questions you know the answer to in the interest of proving you're an Objective Non-Biased Journalist."

However, the danger of so-called "fair and balanced" (CJR) reporting is larger than Trump's rhetoric, and extends to the underlying ideologies that are echoed and reinforced by the media.

In December 2016, the SPLC warned about the impact of normalizing the far right: The Emerging Racists: The Challenge of Covering the Radical Right:
Such editorial choices reflect just how far some are from reckoning with the history of organized white supremacy, its canon of propaganda and the brutality both have inspired. Simply defining these individuals as white nationalists who target ethnic and social groups is equally distant from capturing them and their work as descendants of organized white supremacy and the viciousness with which they have pursued their campaigns. [...] It seems some journalists are struggling to balance the realities of calling racism by its true name with their own loyalty to objectivity –– no matter how they subjectively define it.
In August 2017, Christiana Mbakwe wrote about how the White-supremacy threat demands its own beat reporters (CJR)
If more newsrooms covered white supremacy with the intensity it deserves, fewer white people might have been surprised by the events in Charlottesville. The response instead could have been, “This is us, and all the signs have been there.” Why this hasn’t happened yet is in part a symptom of the issues journalist Howard French describes in his essay “The enduring whiteness of the American media.” The media is preoccupied with race only when turmoil arises, such as in Ferguson and Baltimore, he argues, but over time race gets pushed down a newsroom’s list of priorities.
In June 2018, Margaret Sullivan asks, Instead of Trump’s propaganda, how about a nice ‘truth sandwich’? (WaPo), and interviews George Lakoff, an "author, cognitive scientist and linguist who has long studied how propaganda works," and "believes it’s long past time for the reality-based news media to stop kowtowing to the emperor."
That’s the truth sandwich — reality, spin, reality — all in one tasty, democracy-nourishing meal. Avoid retelling the lies. Avoid putting them in headlines, leads or tweets, he says. Because it is that very amplification that gives them power. That’s how propaganda works on the brain: through repetition, even when part of that repetition is fact-checking.
In December 2018, Florence Madenga and Jeanna Sybert, doctoral students at the Annenberg School for Communication and members of the Center for Media at Risk Steering Committee, conversed with eight individuals — journalists and scholars concerned with and deeply invested in how they and their peers are covering white supremacy in the United States, in Reporting White Supremacy: The State of the Beat (Center For Media @ Risk)
Kelly Weill, a ''Daily Beast'' reporter who also mostly covers extreme right movements, says the best guidance she has seen on this issue is from Robert Paxton’s book The Anatomy of Fascism, and the statement: “I’m not even considering what fascists have said about themselves. I’m interested in what they do.” If a reporter must cover the details of a white supremacist’s personal life, she argues, they should at least balance it out with a voice from somebody whom they’ve hurt or whom they’re opposed to.
Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at NYU, has published A current list of my top problems in pressthink, August 2019, which includes:
2. Explicitly or implicitly, it seems likely that Trump is going to run a racist re-election campaign in 2020, in which “othering” (not a word I like, but it’s the best I can do…) is basic to his appeal to voters. This goes way beyond noisy controversies like whether to use the term “racist.” Is the press ready for a campaign like that? Does it have the people and practices in place to respond? Is it willing to break with precedent to meet a threat without parallel? I doubt it.
Rosen also suggests options for reporters to avoid "taking the bait" and "amplifying Trump's latest outrage", including for the press suspend normal relations with the Trump presidency:
For the Washington Post it might be declining to participate in so-called background briefings. For NPR, it might be refusing to report false claims by the President unless they are served as a “truth sandwich,” a suggestion recently made by Brian Stelter and Margaret Sullivan, interpreting the work of George Lakoff. For CNN, never going live to a Trump event — on the grounds that you will inevitably broadcast falsehoods if you do — would be a good start.
Ultimately, Rosen advocates for a citizens agenda style of campaign coverage:
You cannot keep from getting sucked into Trump’s agenda without a firm grasp on your own. But where does that agenda come from? It can’t come from campaign journalists. Who cares what they think? It has to originate with the voters you are trying to inform.
Previously on Metafilter:
- Truth Sandwiches
- The Enduring Whiteness of American Journalism
- "Citizens agenda." Dorky name. It works.

With the Decommissioning of the Megathreads, we're collaborating on topical uspolitics/potus45-related FPPs, and draft posts can be found on the MeFi Wiki • Thanks to Little Dawn, mumimor, Doktor Zed, and zachlipton for helping to create this post.
posted by bitteschoen (68 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite
 
A friend with a journalism degree told me long ago that the fourth estate is singularly un-interested in examining itself. "Don't let yourself become part of the story" is one thing, but a seemingly-unquestioning participation in industry trends and (re-)defining best practices by murmuration has not established confidence, nor a stable basis for understanding the world (cf. postmodernism). And I think it might be getting worse.
posted by rhizome at 10:59 AM on August 10 [7 favorites]


Wow, this interview:

[Did you see it beforehand?] No. And to be honest, that’s not unusual in the era we’re in...And I think I, personally, should pay more attention to the print front page, maybe, than I did yesterday... I personally don’t focus enough on it; I should focus on it more...But the reality is, some of putting out a daily print newspaper is mechanical. So that’s what happened...So it wasn’t my call...

Or, as Homer Simpson put it, "Three little sentences will get you through life. Number 1: Cover for me. Number 2: Oh, good idea, Boss! Number 3: It was like that when I got here."

And without using the word racist, it said, “This is a portrait of a guy who has often used language to divide people.” I think that’s far more powerful than to just drop in the word racist.

"A guy who has often used language to divide people" is the sort of descriptive phrase that slips through your head like a greased ham thrown down a luge track, leaving no impression behind whatsoever...unlike, say, the word "racist."
posted by The Card Cheat at 11:04 AM on August 10 [46 favorites]




Les Moonves, former chairman of CBS and CBS News:
Man, who would have expected the ride we’re all having right now? This is pretty amazing…. Who would have thought that this circus would come to town?

But, you know—it may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS, that’s all I got to say.

So what can I say? It’s—you know, the money’s rolling in, and this is fun...

Yeah, [Trump’s] getting a lot of free media, but all that’s happening out there, there’s a lot of money in the marketplace, there’s a lot of money in the marketplace….

They’re not even talking about issues. They’re throwing bombs at each other, and I think the advertising reflects that. Most of the ads are not about issues; they’re sort of like the debates. They’re saying, he did this or he did that. Doesn’t say what I stand for.

I’ve never seen anything like this, and this is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It’s a terrible thing to say, but bring it on, Donald, go ahead, keep going. [emph. added]
Cite: https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/leslie-moonves-donald-trump-may-871464 and https://fair.org/home/the-trump-campaign-bad-for-america-but-good-for-cbs/

The NYTimes plays it fast and loose with its coverage of neo-Nazi movements in America for the same reason that all the networks and media outlets helped Trump out in 2015 and 2016, and continue to give him a free pass today: Ad revenue.

NYTimes analysts probably crunched some numbers and found that the paper makes more ad money off of outrage about Trump and, somehow, outrage about the paper's weak coverage of the nascent white supremacy movement he is leading.

Trump is good for media corporations and shareholders. NYTimes, especially.

Something to keep in the back of one's mind whenever puzzling out why mainstream journalists won't call him a liar, cheat, fraud, or murderer, when he lies, cheats, defrauds, or murders people.

It's bad for business.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 11:10 AM on August 10 [19 favorites]


Politico's Jack Shafer took issue with the "Twitter multitudes... swinging caltrops and battle axes in protest".

Apologies if this turns into a medieval weaponry derail, but how exactly does one swing a caltrop? It's really more of a throw and wait kind of thing.
posted by Strange Interlude at 11:25 AM on August 10 [66 favorites]


Michelle Wolf, at the 2018 Correspondent’s Dinner:
“You guys are obsessed with Trump. Did you used to date him? Because you pretend like you hate him, but I think you love him. I think what no one in this room wants to admit is that Trump has helped all of you. He couldn’t sell steaks or vodka or water or college or ties or Eric, but he has helped you. He’s helped you sell your papers and your books and your TV. You helped create this monster, and now you’re profiting off of him. If you’re going to profit off of Trump, you should at least give him some money, because he doesn’t have any.“
The whole thing is worth a re-read.
posted by darkstar at 11:35 AM on August 10 [74 favorites]


Is this where we can talk about how stupid Johnathan Weisman, Deputy Washingron Editor for the NYT, is?
He had a bunch of bad tweets and is now demanding an apology from Roxane Gay.
posted by Uncle at 11:40 AM on August 10 [11 favorites]


Honest question and not trying to be snarky, and I ask this after having read both the original MeTa decommissioning post as well as the wiki: how is a post like this different from a US politics megathread? (Apologies if I should be asking this elsewhere?)
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:43 AM on August 10 [4 favorites]


I believe the intention is to move forward with more narrowly-tailored political posts, and just have several of them. This post seems to be tailored to Trump’s relationship with the journalistic media.
posted by darkstar at 11:46 AM on August 10 [7 favorites]


Oh OK thanks! Nothing to see here, please carry on.
posted by allkindsoftime at 11:56 AM on August 10 [2 favorites]


The New York Times rolls onto its back and pisses itself when Trump walks into the room.

It will never recover from the damage it's done to itself under Trump.
posted by jamjam at 12:05 PM on August 10 [11 favorites]


This is an excellent FPP. Thank you.
posted by drossdragon at 12:15 PM on August 10 [8 favorites]


Was also going to mock the caltrops thing, but really the bigger problem is that Politico's Jack Schafer seems to think medieval weapons were firmly expressed opinions.

Political journalists relying on the metaphor of warfare to describe political speech are unqualified hacks.
posted by biogeo at 12:17 PM on August 10 [15 favorites]


The New York Times rolls onto its back and pisses itself when Trump walks into the room.

It will never recover from the damage it's done to itself under Trump.



Just a reminder that, in 1922, the NYT specifically downplayed the danger of Hitler’s anti-semitism, suggesting that it was merely “clever” rabble-rousing to establish a power base:
But several reliable, well-informed sources confirmed the idea that Hitler’s anti-Semitism was not so genuine or violent as it sounded, and that he was merely using anti-Semitic propaganda as a bait to catch masses of followers and keep them aroused, enthusiastic, and in line for the time when his organization is perfected and sufficiently powerful to be employed effectively for political purposes.

A sophisticated politician credited Hitler with peculiar political cleverness for laying emphasis and over-emphasis on anti-Semitism, saying: “You can’t expect the masses to understand or appreciate your finer real aims. You must feed the masses with cruder morsels and ideas like anti-Semitism. It would be politically all wrong to tell them the truth about where you really are leading them.”
posted by darkstar at 12:19 PM on August 10 [47 favorites]


Thank you bitteschoen for your big work here!
ZeusHumms posted this over on the impeach thread, and though it doesn't say in the header, it is also relevant here: Nancy Pelosi Still Hasn’t Learned the Biggest Lesson From Watergate
Two take-outs:
How were folks talking about Nixon’s resignation then?

Well, there’s a very famous story involving a right-wing congressman named Earl Landgrebe from Indiana. He was an outlier, kind of a right-wing nut, and most famous before that point for smuggling Bibles into the Soviet Union.

He went on the Today Show, one of the most widely watched shows, after the release of what was called “the smoking gun tape“—which, to make a long story short, proved that Richard Nixon had baldy lied about something he said he would never lie about—and he starts complaining about how this is a witch hunt. The reporter says, “Well, what about this fact? And that fact? And this fact, and that fact? What about the smoking gun tape?” And Congressman Landgrebe says, “Don’t confuse me with the facts.”

So that kind of brazenness—sort of fake news brazenness—was very unusual at the time, but you began to see the first inklings of it. Earl Landgrebe became a national joke. Now, that would probably lead to congressional leadership.
And
And William Safire did something very cunning. He was a former public relations executive; he actually literally wrote a book in the early 1960s about how to use public relations techniques to manipulate the public. One of his strategies after Watergate was to take Democratic scandals and fix the suffix “gate” to them. There was a scandal involving this Korean influence peddler, who was secretly working for the Korean CIA without the knowledge of these congressmen who were taking his favors and taking his gifts. William Safire called that “Koreagate.” Before that, Jimmy Carter had a good friend, his budget director, Bert Lance, who was involved in shady banking practices. He called that “Lancegate.” With four strokes of the typewriter keyboard he was able to taunt the rest of the press and say, “Well, you paid so much attention to Watergate. Why are you giving Jimmy Carter a pass on ‘Lancegate’?”
I wasn't at all aware of the last story. And I don't think any journalists today are.
posted by mumimor at 1:24 PM on August 10 [24 favorites]


NPR's show On The Media was mostly about this very thing this week.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 3:24 PM on August 10 [8 favorites]


Related to the link I posted above about how the NYT is the paper for the rich, conservative east coast set (it always has been you should read what they said about the Irish!) and how that wasn’t so bad when there where a lot of newspapers appealing to different audience, the working class has no voice in media, as lay offs and mergers increase, all media is now going after the same market with the best ad rates and prioritizing the needs of that market - Chris Hayes said he’d love to do more environmental coverage but ratings always tank when they do so he can’t do them (which is another way of saying, hey Chris they hired you to neutralize you. Basically no one watches MSNBC you’d have a bigger reach with a blog or a good twitch stream,)

The irony is the only major news source not chasing the 400,000k a year and above set is ....Fox News. And even thier numbers are in the toilet.
posted by The Whelk at 3:32 PM on August 10 [9 favorites]


As Baquet tells it, “the cascade of things that led to this headline” began with the layout that was given to the print hub to fill in. The space for the main headline could fit about two dozen characters, and that was not enough space to “allow for a subtle headline,” Baquet says. “We tied the poor print hub’s arm behind its back because it was too small a space. This is a story with some subtlety to it. It needed to do three things: convey what Donald Trump said, the reasons to be skeptical of what Donald Trump said, and white supremacy as an evident problem.”
Ironically, the president*'s tweet-trained mind is pretty good at discarding nuance and delivering a misleading or wholly mistaken idea succinctly. His triumph lies in getting the fourth estate to follow suit so their ideas look as dumb as his. I am sure there an apposite quotation from Marshall McLuhan here.

You can write a searching, regret-filled, five-page letter to end a relationship and to try to let your partner down without unnecessary heartbreak. It's trickier to do that on a cake.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 3:36 PM on August 10 [5 favorites]


The majority of journalists and opinion writers who set the tone and agenda are closer in earnings to the 10% than to the rest of us. Which also means that those journalists who don't earn that much often aspire to it. IMO, it really colors their understanding of normal people's lives. They are not evil people, but they are looking in from outside when someone is struggling to pay the rent and eat on one job. It also colors their understanding of "the centre". They are not even close to the centre, but like many 10%-ers they see themselves as middle Americans (or whatever country they are in, this is a global issue). They don't recognize that their worries are specific to their class and status.
posted by mumimor at 4:09 PM on August 10 [5 favorites]


Yet another brutal week for American journalism (Jon Allsop, CJR)
It’s not just individual magazines that are struggling: giants are feeling the pinch, too. On Monday, both Gannett and GateHouse, the biggest publishers in the country by circulation, reported deep revenue losses; the same day, the two companies announced that they will merge in a deal financed by private equity (at eye-watering interest rates). Gannett and GateHouse executives are betting that massive scale—the combined entity will publish one in six of America’s local newspapers—can keep them in the black, at least for a few more years. Investors don’t seem so sure: as the New York Post’s Josh Kosman and Keith J. Kelly note, shares in New Media Investment Group, GateHouse’s parent company, tanked after the merger announcement. Next week, executives will meet financiers in person to try and assuage their doubts. No matter what, job cuts seem certain.

Increasingly, the digital media landscape feels bifurcated. A small number of media companies are surviving or even thriving; those tend to have established brands with loyal readers who are prepared to hand over their money. (This week, The Guardian and The New York Times both reported growth in digital revenue; The Guardian, which previously suffered years of heavy losses, is a notable success story.) But everyone else is feeding off the scraps. The closure of Pacific Standard, in particular, is a chastening reminder that even deep-pocketed donors—touted, so often, as the industry’s saving grace—can cut good publications down at a moment’s notice. And some big-name papers are struggling to maintain and grow their paying audiences: the LA Times, which has expanded impressively under Patrick Soon-Shiong, told staff last week that digital subscription growth is way under target. (Still, it was noted, hitting the target wouldn’t cover editorial costs.)

With ad revenue plunging and subscriber revenue, in most places, not replacing it, many media companies have become reliant on revenue streams further from their control. Social media has been one. Yesterday brought important news in that regard: The Wall Street Journal’s Benjamin Mullin and Sahil Patel reported that Facebook has held talks with news executives about paying to license previews of news content in its app. Some industry leaders—Jonah Peretti, CEO of BuzzFeed, for instance—welcomed the development. So far, however, it appears that Facebook has only held talks with big, profitable publishers who need the money less than poorer rivals.

And as many commentators quickly pointed out, Facebook has a track record of hooking news outlets—for example, by prioritizing video—only to fry them with a unilateral change of approach. As Deadspin’s Barry Petchesky tweeted of Facebook’s latest offer, “Morons who run digital media, I beg of you: Please don’t fall for this for the 18th time.”
posted by Little Dawn at 4:10 PM on August 10 [8 favorites]


On Twitter, news outlets amplify Trump’s false statements: study (Alexandria Neason, CJR)
Media Matters found that, in a three-week period, news outlets tweeted false or misleading statements by Trump without clearly correcting them in the body of the tweet 65 percent of the time. Authored by Matt Gertz and Rob Savillo, the study examined more than 2,000 tweets posted between January 26 and February 15 from the Twitter accounts of major American print, online, and broadcast news outlets. [...]

The New York Times​’s main Twitter feed and politics feed disputed every misleading Trump comment they tweeted about during the 24 hours following the State of the Union,” Gertz and Savillo write, “but they did so only 38 percent of the time over the rest of the period.” Politico disputed more than four of every five misleading Trump claims they tweeted about during the State of the Union, but did so a measly 8 percent of the time otherwise.

Some news outlets performed markedly better–and worse–than others. The Hill, which has 3.25 million Twitter followers, was responsible for more than 40 percent of the tweets that failed to fact-check false statements made by Trump in its tweets. [...] Four Twitter accounts managed by ABC News neglected to dispute claims in tweets 71 percent of the time. CBS’s accounts (three were included) “performed poorly, passing along the president’s falsehoods without disputing them 87 percent of the time” according to the report.

On the other end of the spectrum, NPR’s main Twitter account published just 20 tweets about Trump comments in the entire three week period. Four of the tweets referenced false claims made by Trump, and the outlet disputed them 100 percent of the time. NBC’s Meet the Press account rarely tweeted about Trump comments–just 9 percent of their tweets about the president referred to comments he had made. (They failed to dispute the false claims 83 percent of the time, however.) The Post’s main account tweeted about false or misleading Trump comments a total of 37 times and disputed the misinformation 33 times. Fox News did not tweet at all in the three weeks during which the study was conducted.

How can outlets improve their coverage? “One facet would be to slow down and take your time. A lot of mistakes are happening with various outlets tweeting clips from the president’s various appearances in real time and I’m not sure what the rush is,” says Gertz. “It shouldn’t be the practice of the news media to help the president mislead the public.”
posted by Little Dawn at 4:38 PM on August 10 [8 favorites]


Right-wing extremism in America is a real threat. Conservative media downplaying the problem only makes it worse. (Media Matters)
In November 2018, The New York Times ran a lengthy feature showing how political pressure and poor messaging led the government to dial back what little resources it had dedicated to fighting right-wing domestic terrorism. Once Trump took office, those resources went from few to nonexistent.

[...] there’s little potential for political fallout from a U.S. reporter discussing the actions of a terrorist on the other side of the world, but what about an Oregon-based anti-government militia found guilty of taking over a government facility and later pardoned by the president? If these considerations are having an impact on law enforcement, it's not much of a leap to think they could be influencing reporting decisions as media figures fear the now-inevitable backlash from reporting on right-wing extremists.

These considerations likely play into overall coverage considerations. A study published in the journal Justice Quarterly found that terrorist attacks with Muslim perpetrators get on average 357% more media coverage than those carried out by others. The effect is a misguided belief that Muslims commit more acts of terrorism than they actually do, and that right-wing groups carry out fewer attacks than is the case, reinforcing the harmful association between Muslims and terrorists in the eyes of the public. This failure of the press makes us all less safe and provides cover for a government apparently uninterested in addressing the issue of right-wing terrorism.
posted by Little Dawn at 6:06 PM on August 10 [4 favorites]


[Deleted a long jokey riff on caltrops which is maybe a bit tone-deaf in a thread talking about white supremacy, antisemitism, gun violence, etc.]
posted by Eyebrows McGee (staff) at 7:06 PM on August 10 [8 favorites]


Huh ok sorry. I thought the several standing comments on caltrops were joking to diffuse the pain and terror of white supremacy in the USA. They have dozens of favorites and seemed well received. My bad.

So I’ll just add that I too dislike white supremacy and the intersection with gun carnage in my country. I think the articles raise several good points on how the media treatment is insufficient at best and even abetting when viewed with a slightly critical eye.

Take all their guns, forge them into... other things.
posted by SaltySalticid at 7:40 PM on August 10 [3 favorites]


The primary objective of the news is to inform and educate. Some ongoing failures include failing to inform people that global warming is real and poses an existential threat, failing to inform people that Trump unquestionably obstructed justice in an impeachment worthy manner, failing to educate people on the benefits of universal healthcare, and so on and so on.

Are we in a crisis? Are you kidding me? The news is broken. Instead of committing itself to reporting the facts, news outlets held firm to a strategy of trying to straddle an increasing divide between Americans that want news and those who demand fantasy, and the result is a country with a shattered perception of reality.
posted by xammerboy at 8:23 PM on August 10 [7 favorites]


Journalism experts in ethics and diversity explain their reactions to President Trump’s ‘go back’ tweet (Poynter, July 16, 2019)
Doris Truong: When the president of the United States says that four congresswomen should “go back … from (where) they came,” news organizations have a responsibility to call his language what it is: It’s racist. [...] It’s important for news consumers — particularly people who might never have had the phrase hurled at them — to understand that it’s hurtful and deliberately “othering.” This harks back to anti-immigrant sentiment and efforts to depict some groups, especially people of color, as foreigners who are not part of the whole — they are “the other.” “Go back” suggests that the speaker can decide who fits in; the other person is an outsider without value.

Kelly McBride: If your goal is to educate people about the history and meaning of that phrase, “Go back where you came from,” you need to draw them into your story and then explain why and how these words reflect a racist history and intention. [...]

Truong: [...] If news media continue to tiptoe when language is not even coded enough to be considered a dog whistle, are we any better than a euphemism generator?
posted by Little Dawn at 8:26 PM on August 10 [3 favorites]


This year, something wonderful happened here in Denmark; first the EU election was a huge turn towards a greener and more socialist representation in the EU Parliament, and then the GE was a huge victory for the red and green parties. So big that they didn't even need to count the votes for a center/green/unpredictable party called the Alternative.
Obviously the main credit must go to the voters, we are those who vote. But the Danish press deserves a lot of credit and praise for the sea change they made this year. They began prioritizing facts and questioning lies. They reevaluated the concepts of fair and balanced and made them fit with reality rather than political spin. I could go on.
So that is the good news. Change can happen.

For reasons, I have experience with media, even though I never planned it that way.
From early 2000 on, I worked as first a critic, then a jack of all trades at a small leftist newspaper. I learnt journalism in the old-school apprentice style, and I learnt how hard it is. Reporting and interviews are really, really hard to do well. Editing is hard. Editorials are easy to fail. I learned back then that newspapers are used to wrap fish in the day after they are printed, so not to worry. But while I was learning, the entire media world was also learning what the internet is. And one thing we all learnt is that mistakes never go away.

Already back then, the internet basically broke the business of media, and media are a business.
At about the same time, I entered the board of a small, niche media company. I started out there out of love for print and writing, and I entered the board as a representative for the editorial board. But soon I learned that if we didn't make any money, there would be no print or writing, so my focus moved to the business side.
Mostly, the business of media is to sell advertising space. It's also to sell subscriptions. Those two work together. You can run entirely on ads, but then your readers should know that they are the goods. When you sell ads in a subscription-based publication, you can take a higher price for your space. Trusting, loyal readers are valuable, and when a publication blunders, it is bad.

When I was at the newspaper, we had an editor who made similar choices to those they are making at the Times now. This was at the time of 9/11, the Afghanistan war, and the war in Iraq. I strongly disagreed with them and finally quit with no other job in sight and cancelled my subscription. So don't imagine for a minute that I don't care about it. I do, strongly. But after a while the editor in chief and the very few who supported them left, and better minds took over. Everything flows, but media flow more than most things.
In my opinion, those people who offended my values weren't bad people, they were honest and good. But like I wrote above, journalism is hard, and today I think that they were dedicated to the craft of it. And when you are strongly preoccupied with any craft, you can forget the content and be seduced by details. Imagine a joiner who makes perfect renaissance cupboards in the middle of the Bauhaus revolution. They were there, and they were wrong, but their work was perfect.
Craft in this case were things like "a scoop". Finding and writing a unique story, from unique sources. Being cited by the other media all morning. Being interviewed on the main news shows at night. Maybe someone then didn't care too much wether the "scoop" was a racist lie being sent out without any counterpoint within the article. Put the criticism in an editorial, so the main story is clearer. That's "good editing". This is an example of a thing that would get the journalists credit among fellow journalists, regardless of content, while many lay people are shocked.
With the advent of the internet, this attention to craft and detail became monetized in a way it hadn't been before. "The scoop" and "the human interest story", and the "-gate" were suddenly clickbait. While the craft was there already, the immediateness of the relation between craft and money is new. And together, they become a feedback loop that is immensely destructive to the purpose of news media.
(I'm not sure media should educate. But I'm sure they should inform, correctly and critically)
On top of that, there are all the other media. But that is for another long comment...
posted by mumimor at 9:11 PM on August 10 [23 favorites]


...a racist lie being sent out without any counterpoint within the article. Put the criticism in an editorial, so the main story is clearer. That's "good editing". This is an example of a thing that would get the journalists credit among fellow journalists...

Yep that’s what Rosen calls "the View from Nowhere" (it’s linked from within his latest "current list of my top problems in pressthink" in the post)
In pro journalism, American style, the View from Nowhere is a bid for trust that advertises the viewlessness of the news producer. Frequently it places the journalist between polarized extremes, and calls that neither-nor position “impartial.” Second, it’s a means of defense against a style of criticism that is fully anticipated: charges of bias originating in partisan politics and the two-party system. Third: it’s an attempt to secure a kind of universal legitimacy that is implicitly denied to those who stake out positions or betray a point of view. American journalists have almost a lust for the View from Nowhere because they think it has more authority than any other possible stance.
There’s a more recent piece (and podcast) on Vox with a conversation between Rosen and Vox’s Ezra Klein in which they go into more detail about that concept and the alternatives, they make a lot of interesting observations - just going to quote this bit as it applies so well to the NYT for example (but not only):
What the View From Nowhere says is, look, we don’t have a stake, we don’t have a priority list, we don’t have an ideology, we don’t have a view of the world. We’re just telling you the way it is, so believe it because that’s the truth. That kind of claim is increasingly mistrusted. And if people on the receiving end don’t trust that claim, you can’t change that by insisting ever more strictly on that claim. That’s why I say, here’s where we’re coming from is the alternative to the View From Nowhere.
posted by bitteschoen at 5:17 AM on August 11 [11 favorites]


It’d be soo much easier if the solution was “reinstate the fairness doctrine; sanction Fox news propogandists; wind Fox down into a network that only shows nature shows featuring foxes (except ‘Fox and Friends’, which will also feature badgers and owls and beavers etc.)”… the “PS: convince media leaders to grow damned spines” is the kicker.
posted by Haere at 5:42 AM on August 11 [6 favorites]


Here’s yet another recent example of that "view from nowhere" approach, again from the NYT, a profile of Katie Hopkins a couple days ago where the headline was "A Divisive Voice Once Again Has Trump’s Ear", with "divisive" as the typical euphemism for "racist", a word used in the article only indirectly by quoting others. Ironically the article acknowledges that "British headlines have routinely labeled Ms. Hopkins a “racist” and a “bigot” for her views about immigrants" – so it’s quoting the View from Britain so to speak – but god forbid we take the same position the British media have taken towards this British person, we have to remain impartial, with our view from nowhere... And the article gives Hopkins the last word, no further counterpoint, no truth sandwich there. It’s not directly sympathetic to Hopkins per se, just, infuriatingly trying to avoid taking any positions at all.

A reader who’d never heard of Hopkins before would have to go look up more information and find out for instance that she was banned from South Africa for spreading racial hatred. If that’s not a textbook definition of "racist", I don’t know what is. CNN included that in their profile and called her a "vile bigot" directly. It’s not more "partisan" or "biased" than the NYT profile; it’s more accurate and truthful and complete.
posted by bitteschoen at 5:54 AM on August 11 [6 favorites]


(and ah, I just noticed later that that CNN piece is filed under "Opinion"! *sighs* it doesn’t sound like an opinion to me to write about a public figure based on ascertained facts about that person but see above...)
posted by bitteschoen at 6:51 AM on August 11 [2 favorites]


It should be noted that British libel laws are much stronger than the US's, so if UK outlets can call this person a racist, surely our media can and should.
posted by tivalasvegas at 11:06 AM on August 11 [10 favorites]


From a long article in New Yorker ...Jan 2019...Does Journalism have a future.?
The broader problem is that the depravity, mendacity, vulgarity, and menace of the Trump Administration have put a lot of people, including reporters and editors, off their stride. The present crisis, which is nothing less than a derangement of American life, has caused many people in journalism to make decisions they regret, or might yet. In the age of Facebook, Chartbeat, and Trump, legacy news organizations, hardly less than startups, have violated or changed their editorial standards in ways that have contributed to political chaos and epistemological mayhem. Do editors sit in a room on Monday morning, twirl the globe, and decide what stories are most important? Or do they watch Trump’s Twitter feed and let him decide? It often feels like the latter. Sometimes what doesn’t kill you doesn’t make you stronger; it makes everyone sick. The more adversarial the press, the more loyal Trump’s followers, the more broken American public life. The more desperately the press chases readers, the more our press resembles our politics
posted by adamvasco at 12:45 PM on August 11 [4 favorites]


The broader problem is that the depravity, mendacity, vulgarity, and menace of the Trump Administration have put a lot of people, including reporters and editors, off their stride.

Pfft, the old and busted guard maybe, but there are plenty of newswriters and "columnists" today who are doing good work now in obscurity. Sarah Kendzior, Adam Johnson, Aaron Rupar, Adam Klasfeld, Sam Vinograd, Carole Cadwalladr, Daniel Dale, Caille Millner, AND SO ON. Local news probably has equally the proportions of dusty deadwood vs. dogged and respected Nextdoor participants.

Oh, but David Brooks and Maggie Haberman won't clear the bar. Jim Acosta might.
posted by rhizome at 2:09 PM on August 11 [3 favorites]


> In the age of Facebook,

For five years, Facebook has let a white supremacist dog whistle thrive (Media Matters)
Anti-immigrant “invasion” narratives gained traction on right-wing Facebook pages in August 2014 when Barack Obama was president. Right-wing Facebook pages linked to clickbait junk news sites that warned of a coming “invasion” at the U.S. southern border. One of the first viral posts, which earned over 85,000 interactions, revered a group of armed Texans heading to the border “to defend [the U.S.] against illegals and criminals.”

[...] On Facebook, anti-immigrant attacks spread alongside anti-Muslim conspiracy theories inspired by white supremacist ideology. [...] Anti-Muslim “invasion” narratives continued to escalate in 2016, through the presidential elections, and into 2017. Many of these white supremacist dog whistle posts were accompanied with calls to action like “stop the invasion.” Some posed questions such as: “How many Americans would come together to fight … if our government wanted to open up our borders for a invasion like Europe has?”

[...] Right-wing pages utilize “invasion” rhetoric as part of a larger anti-immigrant propaganda campaign. They have implemented the narrative twice in the past year alone. These narratives tend to seem repetitive from year to year. That’s not a coincidence; many articles are recycled on Facebook month after month and even year after year. It’s a common tactic right-wing propaganda pages use to make any issue they fearmonger about seem like a pattern. [...] After President Donald Trump faced backlash over his administration’s inhumane family separation policies, right-wing Facebook pages rallied behind him by spreading anti-immigrant conspiracy theories and justifying his policies as a tactic to fight the asylum-seekers they characterized as invaders.

[...] As the 2018 midterm elections approached, there was a new wave of “invasion” posts reacting to caravans of migrants heading toward the U.S. border -- a topic that also became a fixation of Fox News and other right-wing outlets. [...] Today, clickbait links, memes, and long-winding video rants referring to immigration as an “invasion” are still part of the anti-immigrant content that is regularly recycled on right-wing Facebook pages.
posted by Little Dawn at 5:03 PM on August 11 [6 favorites]


......there are plenty of newswriters and "columnists" today who are doing good work now in obscurity. Sarah Kendzior, Adam Johnson, Aaron Rupar, Adam Klasfeld, Sam Vinograd, Carole Cadwalladr, Daniel Dale, Caille Millner, ...
I don't disagree. The question that needs asking is why is their work not better known or publicised.
Cadwalladr is now being sued by the shyster scumbag Arron Banks to try and quieten her. The rest of the media should be broadcasting and assisting her supurb investigative reporting instead of staying silent.
posted by adamvasco at 6:09 PM on August 11 [2 favorites]


Because reach takes money and all the money is going to established players. The Intercept has been an attempt at going around the problem, but I feel like any true usurpers will have to print paper.
posted by rhizome at 6:24 PM on August 11


Many people only watch FOX news. They have been told that global warming is a hoax and that the Mueller report exonerated Trump. The only solution is some kind of government regulation.
posted by xammerboy at 8:05 PM on August 11


Speaking of the true usurpers, this NYT article profiles Sweden as a case study in a global phenomenon:
To dig beneath the surface of what is happening in Sweden, though, is to uncover the workings of an international disinformation machine, devoted to the cultivation, provocation and amplication of far-right, anti-immigrant passions and political forces. Indeed, that machine, most influentially rooted in Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia and the American far right, underscores a fundamental irony of this political moment: the globalization of nationalism.

The central target of these manipulations from abroad — and the chief instrument of the Swedish nationalists’ success — is the country’s increasingly popular, and virulently anti-immigrant, digital echo chamber.

A New York Times examination of its content, personnel and traffic patterns illustrates how foreign state and nonstate actors have helped to give viral momentum to a clutch of Swedish far-right web sites. Russian and Western entities that traffic in disinformation, including an Islamaphobic think tank whose former chairman is now Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, have been crucial linkers to the Swedish sites, helping to spread their message to susceptible Swedes. [...]

Fria Tider is considered not only one of the most extreme sites, but also among the most Kremlin-friendly. It frequently swaps material with the Russian propaganda outlet Sputnik. The site is linked, via domain ownership records, to Granskning Sverige, called the Swedish “troll factory” for its efforts to entrap and embarrass mainstream journalists. Among its frequent targets: journalists who write negatively about Russia.

“We’ve had death threats, spam attacks, emails — this year has been totally crazy,” said Eva Burman, the editor of Eskilstuna-Kuriren, a newspaper that found itself in the cross hairs after criticizing the Russian annexation of Crimea and investigating Granskning Sverige itself. [...]

The Times identified 356 domains that linked to all four Swedish sites. Many are well known in American far-right circles. Among them is the Gatestone Institute, a think tank whose site regularly stokes fears about Muslims in the United States and Europe. Its chairman until last year was John R. Bolton, now Mr. Trump’s national security adviser, and its funders have included Rebekah Mercer, a prominent wealthy Trump supporter.

Other domains that linked to all four Swedish sites included Stormfront, one of the oldest and largest American white supremacist sites; Voice of Europe, a Kremlin-friendly right-wing site; a Russian-language blog called Sweden4Rus.nu; and FreieWelt.net, a site supportive of the AfD in Germany. This loosely knit global network does not just help increase readership in Sweden; researchers have tracked how Russian state outlets like RT and Sputnik, along with Western platforms like Infowars and Breitbart, have picked up and amplified Swedish immigration-related stories to galvanize xenophobia among their audiences.
posted by Little Dawn at 8:57 PM on August 11 [12 favorites]


And speaking of FOX News, Media Matters notes that Fox News is pushing white nationalism because the Murdochs want it to:
Fox is feeding its audience a poisonous stew of bigoted, xenophobic conspiracy theories because that is what the Murdochs want the network to do.

A New York Times Magazine investigation found that in recent years, the Murdochs’ media empire has been “instrumental in amplifying the nativist revolt that was reshaping governments not just in the United States but also across the planet,” with their outlets fueling xenophobia and ethnonationalism to achieve political aims in the U.S., the United Kingdom, and Australia. [...]

And now there’s a national debate over how Fox’s inflammatory programming was echoed in a white supremacist terrorist’s manifesto -- one that has triggered not internal reflection at the network, but a circling of the wagons. [...]

So the Murdochs are the reason Fox’s weeknight prime-time block features segments that are distinguishable from white supremacist YouTube videos only in their production values. The harder question to answer is why. The family has built an international media empire that wields substantial political power on three continents.

Are they actual nationalists who truly agree with Carlson and Ingraham that an invading force of minorities is putting the nation at risk? Or are they simply motivated by instrumentalism, happy to have their employees make those arguments because it bolsters their influence over right-wing governments which then support policies that bolster their own economic standing?

In the end, it hardly matters: Fox has spent the last few years diving ever deeper into a cesspool, and there’s no sign the network plans to change course.
posted by Little Dawn at 9:25 PM on August 11 [6 favorites]


FOX/Murdoch is at the center of the cancer, but Google and Facebook are making their own money from Trump's white supremacist movement:
Bayoumy: What about the international connections between these movements?

Picciolini: There was always a connection overseas; these far-right movements shared the same names, the same leadership structure. Certainly the manifestos suggest that they’re playing off of each other; the El Paso shooter referenced support for the New Zealand shooter. It’s no longer a lone-wolf-type situation, which is something we were pushing in the ’80s and ’90s. The ideology then was that there were no leaders, there was no centralized movement, individuals were empowered to act on their own. But the internet has really solidified this movement globally through all these forums online; they’re connected in the virtual world in ways that we often can’t be in the real world. I would say that the threat of a transnational, global white-supremacist terrorist movement is spreading.

Bayoumy: How do they raise money?

Picciolini: Thirty years ago, music was the vehicle for that; you’d have touring white-supremacist metal bands, and groups would raise money off ticket sales. Nowadays, there’s a lot of crowdsourcing. These groups are generating revenue, for instance, through serving ads on some of their propaganda videos. If ads are being served on their videos, chances are good, depending on how many views, they’re making ad revenue based on Google, Facebook, YouTube, serving ads against their content. (emph. added)
Like CBS's Les Moonves said, Trump and Trump's racist political ideology are good for business.

Rich people who own and run these media empires think their money will save them, but Nazi Germany showed that no one was safe, in the end.

Still, that sweet ad money is just too enticing to leave on the table.
posted by They sucked his brains out! at 10:30 PM on August 11 [1 favorite]


For those not familiar with the Gatestone Institute, mentioned above in Little Dawn’s quote from the NYT article on Sweden and the global network of nativists, here’s a a good piece about it from NBC news. The interesting thing is that they translate all their content into multiple languages, and they’re rather clever in also citing and linking to mainstream media from the countries they’re writing about, as if to add a sort of legitimacy to their content, but they do a huge amount of cherry-picking and forcibly fitting every story into their anti-immigrant, anti-muslim, nationalist and nativist narrative. They do provide ammo to the far-right political parties, and unfortunately because of their nature as a think-tank and their strategy of abundantly quoting local media they get taken more seriously than any explicitly extremist site.
posted by bitteschoen at 5:42 AM on August 12 [2 favorites]


On the topic of covering both shootings and extremist speech in general, there are some interesting points and links in this piece from Nieman Reports, asking if "strategic silence" (downplaying the names, images, and ideologies of perpetrators of mass crime) should be extended to extremist speech, misinformation, and propaganda, too. Some highlights:
... It was known as “dignified silence” in the 1920s, when the black press used it to downplay news about the Ku Klux Klan, and “quarantining” when Jewish organizations pushed journalists to give less attention to the ideas of white supremacists and American Nazis. [More on that in this 2018 piece on the Guardian: The case for quarantining extremist ideas]

...There’s another thrust of the strategic silence movement: to stop journalists from sharing not only shooters’ manifestos, but incendiary political and cultural speech, and to debunk it, even when it’s coming from the White House. This has gotten much more limited momentum; a review by the progressive research organization Media Matters for America suggests that, in the case of untrue tweets by President Donald Trump, for instance, media outlets continue to more often amplify than filter or rebut them.

...Proponents of strategic silence applaud depriving mass killers of the fame that some research has concluded helps motivate their crimes. They also applaud media that decline to publish or broadcast extremist credos or false claims, stopping the propaganda from finding wider audiences they say their promoters have become adept at manipulating journalists into supplying.

...It’s a fraught and complex debate now being played out in more and more newsrooms with what some critics say are the highest possible stakes. Since political strategic silence ebbs and flows with the election cycle, it’s likely to present itself again as 2020 nears. To boyd—Data & Society’s founder and president, who styles her name in all lowercase letters—the question isn’t whether or not the public should know, “but at what point are you reporting on something that’s happening and at what point are you aiding and abetting the conspiracy?”

...Strategic silence isn’t necessarily encouraging journalists to censor themselves, says Whitney Phillips, an assistant professor of communications at Syracuse University and an expert on online trolling who has studied how the media help amplify the ideology of the alt-right. “I understand the kneejerk response of, ‘Somebody is telling me not to do my job any more,’” she says. “That isn’t it.”

The focus needs to be on the “strategic” and not the “silent” part of the term, says Phillips, author of “The Oxygen of Amplification,” [PDF] a report about this topic.

“There are ways to communicate stories without playing into a manipulator’s game,” she says: by focusing not just on the speaker or the speech, but on the people affected by it. When journalists report about conspiracy theories, political misinformation, and racist or misogynistic messages, says Phillips, “what’s missing from that account in almost every case is the perspective of the people who are being targeted by that offensive speech. It’s almost always all about the speech and not about the victims.”

The controversial November 2017 New York Times story “A Voice of Hate in America’s Heartland,” about the far-right Midwesterner popularly remembered as “the Nazi next door,” for instance, left out the perspective of neighbors who might have been the targets of his animosity, she says. “It didn’t consider what that framing is like for them. That’s not balanced reporting.”
That linked PDF report also has a home page on the Data & Society website, with extracts and links to individual parts, including suggestions and tips for reporters – it’s extremely interesting: https://datasociety.net/output/oxygen-of-amplification/
posted by bitteschoen at 5:51 AM on August 12 [2 favorites]


White supremacist groups changed their marketing strategy from arguing that the white race was superior to arguing that white culture was superior about ten years or so ago. I can only think they learned from an argument that gained a lot of traction after 9/11, that Muslim culture is inferior in its entirety to white culture and incompatible with liberal humanism because of some of the really bad beliefs that are part of Sharia law.

This is the argument I now see peddled across the news media, that white culture is endangered and superior. It has a lot of similarities to racism, in that it arrives at a blanket category conclusion based on a few specific data points. The argument becomes that this kind of racism is not racism at all, but merely a form of identity politics similar to the ones common among ethnic groups.

It's hard to call the argument out as racism, because it's not racism per se. However, it leads its adherents right up the path to racism, and allows for a lot of deniability. This is what Tucker Carlson is doing when he says racism isn't racism but a liberal invention. In my opinion, this is the philosophical argument Republicans have weaponized to advance racism, and I don't see it being countered elsewhere in the news.

So there's an ideological battle taking place, and I don't see that many news outlets are even aware of it. Note: I am walking out the door and wrote this kind of fast. I hope I expressed myself clearly.
posted by xammerboy at 8:21 AM on August 12 [3 favorites]


I think this is relevant to this thread. I've only added back in the press media links.

Civil liberties groups are warning of a major threat to online freedoms and First Amendment rights if a leaked draft of a Trump administration edict—dubbed by critics as a "Censor the Internet" executive order that would give powerful federal agencies far-reaching powers to pick and choose which kind of Internet material is and is not acceptable—is allowed to go into effect.

According to CNN, which obtained a copy of the draft, the new rule "calls for the FCC to develop new regulations clarifying how and when the law protects social media websites when they decide to remove or suppress content on their platforms. Although still in its early stages and subject to change, the Trump administration's draft order also calls for the Federal Trade Commission to take those new policies into account when it investigates or files lawsuits against misbehaving companies."

While Politico was the first to report how the draft was being circulated by the White House, CNN notes that if put into effect, "the order would reflect a significant escalation by President Trump in his frequent attacks against social media companies over an alleged but unproven systemic bias against conservatives by technology platforms. And it could lead to a significant reinterpretation of a law that, its authors have insisted, was meant to give tech companies broad freedom to handle content as they see fit."

posted by Mrs Potato at 12:09 PM on August 12 [4 favorites]


CNN's lede is stark.

A draft executive order from the White House could put the Federal Communications Commission in charge of shaping how Facebook (FB), Twitter (TWTR) and other large tech companies curate what appears on their websites, according to multiple people familiar with the matter.

posted by Mrs Potato at 12:37 PM on August 12 [5 favorites]


There’s more recent coverage of the NYT headline mess, as the newsroom had a meeting yesterday about it

– this from the Daily Beast – NYT Top Editor: Trump Racism Headline Was a ‘F*cking Mess’
In a lengthy town-hall meeting on Monday, the paper’s top brass addressed a bevy of recent controversies centering around the Times’ coverage of Trump, race, and politics.

... Also on the agenda was discussion of when to use labels like “racist” in Times stories

... “He’s sick. He feels terrible,” Baquet said of the person who wrote the offending headline.
The top editor reiterated that the headline was a mistake—“It was a fucking mess,” he told the staff—but joined other newsroom leaders in cautioning staff not to overreact to Twitter comments about the paper’s editorial decisions.
Baquet said the paper shouldn’t allow itself to be edited by Twitter outrage.

...Last week’s headline reignited an ongoing media discussion—both inside and outside the paper—about how to properly cover Trump’s racist statements.
During Monday’s meeting, Baquet, the first African-American executive editor of the paper, emphasized that rather than simply labeling the president or other leaders “racist” or using euphemisms like “racially charged,” the paper should demonstrate instances of racism through concrete examples.

...The executive editor also said the Times’ standards editor is working on producing a written standard for when the paper should use the word “racist,”

– and this article in Vanity Fair, with more quotes from inside sources– “WE’RE NOT GONNA BE A PART OF THE RESISTANCE”: HOW TRUMP AGGRAVATES THE TIMES’S LONG-RUNNING IDENTITY CRISIS
A terrible headline spurred a lefty Twitterstorm, a Trump counterstrike, canceled subscriptions, intense Timesian navel-gazing, and a staff-wide meeting with Dean Baquet. None of which means that anything will change.

...The crisis recalled several others involving the paper’s sometimes problematic and imperfectly applied impulse toward both-sides-ism, and the left’s problems with this approach.

... Baquet convened a town hall on Monday afternoon to address the convulsions. “There was enough stuff that happened that it seemed like a good time to talk it out and hear from people,” an editor familiar with his thinking told me. “I think this is a really difficult story to cover, the story of Donald Trump and race and his character. We’re in a bit of uncharted territory. There is definitely some friction over, how does the paper position itself? I don’t think you could argue that we haven’t been tough on Donald Trump. There’s real debate, and some real disappointment, about how we position ourselves as an institution.” Another editor said, “What I think is really going on is, reporters on the front lines, particularly reporters of color, are really attuned to something happening in the country that is, to a lot of them, deeply scary, both personally and politically, and there’s a hunger to have a conversation about it. If this rhetoric continues, how is the Times covering it? What are the rules of engagement for a president who traffics in this stuff? How do we, as a newsroom, grapple with that?”

...It also became clear that there was a fair amount of internal discord over the Times’s halting use of the term “racist,” such as when the paper didn’t describe as such Trump’s attacks on the four congresswomen of color known as the Squad. When can the Times use that word? Only when it is clear and obvious beyond a shadow of a doubt, replied Baquet, who is the Times’s first black executive editor. He argued that it’s more effective and powerful to illustrate racism through reporting. “I don’t think everyone was satisfied with Dean’s answer, but I think people acknowledged that he’s very attuned to their concerns,” an attendee told me.

...Last week’s drama appears to have underscored a gulf between some veteran Times journalists and an increasingly influential and vocal cohort of typically younger, next-generation employees. To boil down the nuance as simply as possible, the former camp sometimes views the latter as hypersensitive and politicized; the latter sometimes views the former as blindly tethered to tradition.

...the dominant issue of the moment is, and will continue to be, all of the emotions and anger and conundrums that come with the territory of covering the most unusual and divisive presidency in American history. On that front, perhaps only one thing is certain. As one of the editors I spoke with put it, “There’s a clear feeling from the top that we’re not gonna be a part of the resistance, and how that gets translated day to day can frustrate people.”
posted by bitteschoen at 2:56 AM on August 13 [1 favorite]


The broader problem is that the depravity, mendacity, vulgarity, and menace of the Trump Administration have put a lot of people, including reporters and editors, off their stride.

Nonsense. My high school journalism teacher told his class that when your source lies to you, that's your story. But the so-called "elite political media" never learned the lesson from the deceptive selling of the second Iraq War -- that shifting justification and bogus facts means that the policy is likely to be illegitimate -- to ever ask themselves what is Donald Trump hiding, with a few notable exceptions such as David Farenthold, who uncovered likely criminal abuses in Trump's foundation with old fashioned reporting, which many reporters seem to consider difficult and boring compared to getting a thrill off their worthless "access."

Jon Stewart's question on Crossfire is still valid -- why would reporters deliberately seek out spin? More and more it seems the answer is because they're lazy and incompetent.
posted by Gelatin at 6:17 AM on August 13 [7 favorites]


“He’s sick. He feels terrible,” Baquet said of the person who wrote the offending headline. The top editor reiterated that the headline was a mistake—“It was a fucking mess,” he told the staff—but joined other newsroom leaders in cautioning staff not to overreact to Twitter comments about the paper’s editorial decisions.

Baquet said the paper shouldn’t allow itself to be edited by Twitter outrage.


It's been observed that the Times' only constituency is the Times. They are at the unquestioned top of the American media in terms of prestige, so as long as they can convince themselves they are doing journalism they will ignore their own readers, let alone lesser mortals at other papers commenting on their work. (I'll try to find a link or two making this point more substantially, when I have time to dig them up.)
posted by mark k at 7:40 AM on August 13 [4 favorites]


as long as they can convince themselves they are doing journalism they will ignore their own readers, let alone lesser mortals at other papers commenting on their work.

Firing their public editor made the job of convincing themselves they are doing journalism a bit easier.
posted by Gelatin at 8:12 AM on August 13 [9 favorites]


as long as they can convince themselves they are doing journalism they will ignore their own readers, let alone lesser mortals at other papers commenting on their work.

And it seems apparent that Baquet fucking hates all this. Not that the headline was a mistake, that's just a stale croissant to him, but that outsiders are insisting on a voice and getting all up in his shit. He's exhibiting the arrogance of someone who makes too much money.
posted by rhizome at 9:42 AM on August 13 [3 favorites]




It should be noted that British libel laws are much stronger than the US's, so if UK outlets can call this person a racist, surely our media can and should.

The funny thing is, Katie Hopkins herself has been found guilty of libel in at least two cases, the second case is especially remarkable because her then employer the (ugh) Daily Mail was forced to pay £150,000 to a Muslim family whom she had falsely accused of extremist ties.
None of this was included in the NYT article about her. (It’s on wikipedia though!) Maybe a more interesting interview would have been with that Muslim family.

Also, Hopkins herself used the chance to speak to the NYT’s Maggie Haberman to her own advantage, at least in the eyes of her supporters - she tweeted a clip from the end of their conversation for the interview: "LISTEN to my chat with Maggie Haberman from the failing @NYT ‘Why has the failing NYT changed its headline?’". And posted the clip on Soundcloud with this description: Maggie Haberman asked Katie to talk about why Trump retweets her tweets. Maggie was NOT prepared to talk about why the failing NYT changes its headlines to please its readers.

In the clip, Katie Hopkins repeatedly asks Maggie Haberman about the headline, and is relentless - here’s a quick transcript if you understandably don’t want to click the above and listen:
- KH: "do you change what you write if your readers don’t like it?"
- MH: "well I’m really interested in talking to you about your views for the story and while I appreciate your time very much I’m going to go write up my notes"
- KH: "oh I’ve just answered your questions but you don’t want to answer my question?"
- MH: "is this for our conversation or are you recording this?"
- KH: "No I’m asking because you changed... I’m just curious how it works in the States"
- MH: "I think the editor has already answered that, they changed it, they were already in the process of changing it because they hadn’t seen the headline, I’m happy to email you the column from the editor where he talks about that"
- KH: "but you changed the headline because your readers didn’t like it, no?"
- MH: "no, he explains it had already been changed... it’s all contained in that interview, I’m not the editor in chief of the NYT, I’m not the executive editor so this should probably explain it"
- KH: "I don’t think anyone can explain it, I think it’s an embarassing day for the failing NYT, would you say?"
- MH: "ok, well, I appreciate that, be well, thank you for taking my call"

The NYT’s Maggie Haberman did her best to respond politely and patiently, but she didn’t know she was being recorded. And Hopkins twisted it around to make it sound to her supporters like she was exposing how NYT reporters don’t want to answer the question etc.

It’s not a big deal, but it still shows you need to be careful not to be the target of bigots and trolls even when you’re interviewing them – it is a small example of what can happen when ignoring the tips for reporters from the above-mentioned paper "The Oxygen of Amplification", not just "avoid framing bad actors as the center of the narrative" or "be aware of how strategic many groups of white supremacists and nationalists are in their communications and messaging", but, this:
… In cases when the reporter is inclined to reach out directly to a specific antagonist, manipulator, or abuser, they should first reflect on whether the story absolutely requires quotes from bigoted, manipulative individuals. First, by handing bad actors a platform, reporters allow these individuals to tell their story on their own terms, and in so doing, give them equal time to justify/spin/further normalize their behaviors.

… As an additional tip for one-on-one interviews, reporters should be aware that all communications in emails and in interviews, in fact anything reporters say publicly or even semiprivately about a particular story and/or subject, may be used against the reporter and their publication. Several reporters mentioned that hoaxers, bigots and manipulators often secretly record their interviews with reporters, and/or will attempt to engage the reporter in seemingly casual conversations on Twitter or Facebook, with the explicit objective of posting those interactions to social media and humiliating the reporter and their publication. Reporters should consider whether this additional layer of personal exposure—a layer above and beyond the news value of the interview—is worth quotes, especially from individuals who will probably lie anyway.
posted by bitteschoen at 12:26 PM on August 14 [3 favorites]


Ibram X Kendi on why not being racist is not enough (Guardian)
What of the media’s role in legitimising racist ideas and making them mainstream? From Fox News to Britain’s rightwing media, Muslims, migrants and refugees face demonisation and hate. He pauses, smiling gently, choosing his words carefully. “First, the mainstream media should recognise that they have been one of the historic platforms for racist ideas,” he says. “The mainstream media have historically reproduced racist ideas, often not knowing it.”
posted by Little Dawn at 12:51 PM on August 14 [4 favorites]


Les Moonves, former chairman of CBS and CBS News:

Don't forget that Moonves blackballed Janet Jackson post Superbowl Nipple Apocalypse (while not blackballing Justin Timberlake). He has had sexual harassment/assault allegations made against him that were credible enough that CBS fired him.

He has lot of awful in common with Donald Trump.
posted by srboisvert at 9:57 AM on August 15 [1 favorite]


Behind Nate Silver’s war with The New York Times (Politico)
After the 2016 shocker, Silver published an 11-part opus: “The Real Story Of 2016: What reporters — and lots of data geeks, too — missed about the election, and what they’re still getting wrong.” And the Times, Silver wrote, “is a good place to look for where coverage went wrong.”

While the Times was Silver’s primary target, he suggested the paper’s political coverage was emblematic of broader problems in 2016, such as journalist groupthink, access-driven reporting, and a misplaced notion of Clinton’s inevitability. In the Trump era, Silver has accused the Times of normalizing neo-Nazism and being beholden to White House access.

On Tuesday, Silver suggested the Times is “too self-conscious about trying to prove” that it’s not part of the resistance to Trump that it will “likely worsen their journalism” and critics such as the president “will accuse them all of it all the same.”
The NYT isn't/shouldn't be part of #TheResistance, but they're too self-conscious about trying to prove that they aren't, in ways that likely worsen their journalism, and it doesn't really buy them much because their critics (e.g. Trump) will accuse them all of it all the same. — Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) August 13, 2019
posted by Little Dawn at 10:53 AM on August 15 [8 favorites]


New York Times Demotes Jonathan Weisman, Deputy Washington Editor, Over ‘Serious Lapses in Judgment’

When you are so bad at your job we are going to demote you to [NYTimes will not disclose new role or responsibilities].

The paper of record refuses to go on record about editor with a public record of bad and racist judgement while claiming to be open with the permission of the ostensibly demoted editor.

Is this just PR spin from the paper of broken record? You betcha!
posted by srboisvert at 10:53 AM on August 15 [2 favorites]


New York Times Demotes Jonathan Weisman, Deputy Washington Editor, Over ‘Serious Lapses in Judgment’

@realDonaldTrump took a victory lap, of sorts: "Wow! The Deputy Editor of the Failing New York Times was just demoted. Should have been Fired! Totally biased and inaccurate reporting. The paper is a Fraud, Zero Credibility. Fake News takes another hit, but this time a big one!"

Trump's animus for the NYT will never be assuaged. It's baffling that they continue to treat him with a deference he neither deserves nor returns.
posted by Doktor Zed at 11:00 AM on August 15 [3 favorites]


Trump's animus for the NYT will never be assuaged. It's baffling that they continue to treat him with a deference he neither deserves nor returns.
Baquet: We are an independent news organization, one of the few remaining. And that means there will be stories and journalism of all kinds that will upset our readers and even some of you. ... our readers and some of our staff cheer us when we take on Donald Trump, but they jeer at us when we take on Joe Biden. They sometimes want us to pretend that he was not elected president, but he was elected president. And our job is to figure out why, and how, and to hold the administration to account. If you’re independent, that’s what you do.

... I used the word lie once during the presidential campaign, used it a couple times after that. And it was pretty clear it was a lie, and we were the first ones to use it. But I fear that if we used it 20 times, 10 times, first, it would lose its power. And secondly, I thought we would find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of deciding which comment by which politician fit the word lie. I feel the same way about the word racist.

I think that a bizarre sort of litmus test has been created: If you don’t use the word racist, you’re not quite capturing what the president said. I’m going to argue that, first off, if you go back and look at what Peter Baker wrote that weekend, it was more powerful than the news organizations that just tossed the word out lightly as the first thing.
[...]

Staffer: [...] sometimes we use these other words that sound like euphemisms or like—
Baquet: Agree.
Staffer: —you know, “white nationalists who are racially tinged” or we use things that seem to normalize and clean up and sanitize an ugly reality.
Baquet: Yeah, I hate racially tinged, racially charged, too. I think those are worse. If you’re going to do what I said, if you’re gonna put your money where your mouth is and actually just describe it, you shouldn’t use sort of half-assed words like racially charged or racially tinged either. You should either say it when the moment comes or you should describe the scene. I agree with that.

[...]
Philip Corbett [associate managing editor of standards at the NYT]: ... I would dispute the idea that when we have made mistakes about headlines in the last months or couple of years that they have always been in the same direction, which I think is how you put it. In other words, that the mistakes you’re seeing are when we’re going, shall we say, too easy on Donald Trump. There certainly have been headlines where I feel like that has been a failing. But I will say, honestly, there have been headlines that many of us have been concerned about or asked to have changed or have had discussion about where I felt the problem was the opposite. Where we were showing what could be read as bias against Trump, and were perhaps going too far in the opposite direction.
from the transcript of last week’s crisis meeting at the NYT (Slate). It’s very long but I’d recommend reading it entirely. There’s of course a lot about the headline mess, and it makes it seem even more puzzling how it seems there was a lack of oversight on a tight deadline. But there’s a lot more, including some very insightful anonymous comments from others in the newsroom related by one staffer:
“Saying something like divisive or racially charged is so euphemistic. Our stylebook would never allow it in other circumstances. I am concerned that the Times is failing to rise to the challenge of a historical moment. What I have heard from top leadership is a conservative approach that I don’t think honors the Times’ powerful history of adversarial journalism. I think that the NYT’s leadership, perhaps in an effort to preserve the institution of the Times, is allowing itself to be boxed in and hamstrung. This obviously applies to the race coverage. The headline represented utter denial, unawareness of what we can all observe with our eyes and ears. It was pure face value. I think this actually ends up doing the opposite of what the leadership claims it does. A headline like that simply amplifies without critique the desired narrative of the most powerful figure in the country. If the Times’ mission is now to take at face value and simply repeat the claims of the powerful, that’s news to me. I’m not sure the Times’ leadership appreciates the damage it does to our reputation and standing when we fail to call things like they are.”
posted by bitteschoen at 3:53 AM on August 16 [6 favorites]


CNN Business also spoke to Baquet and anonymous NYT staffers about the meeting
...one staffer explained, "I think there is a general feeling of frustration that we are doing a lot of good work, but there is also a feeling that we need to be doing more to hold Trump rigorously accountable."

...In regard to the debate on how to cover race, some staffers inside The Times agreed wholeheartedly with Baquet's approach. "Using that language is a turn off to some readers," one said. "And there are a lot of people that think The Times is too liberal, and when you start throwing words like that around, people will accuse us of editorializing."

On the opposing end, another Times staffer countered that the desire to "show and not tell" might be "well intentioned," but it is ineffective. "It puts a burden on readers and especially those who are maybe less savvy," the staffer explained. "And when the stakes are so high and so many people feel personally threatened and there's real danger in the air, the show don't tell approach feels inadequate."

When he spoke to CNN Business, Baquet himself acknowledged this tension inside his newsroom. He also acknowledged that it is playing out largely across generational lines. Younger staffers generally feel The Times should be more aggressive and explicit in its coverage of Trump. Older staffers generally prefer taking the more traditional approach espoused by Baquet.

"There is a generational divide in newsrooms right now," Baquet said. But he flatly rejected the notion that The Times has not covered Trump boldly enough, saying, "My own view is that we are covering Donald Trump very aggressively."
posted by bitteschoen at 6:08 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


On the opposing end, another Times staffer countered that the desire to "show and not tell" might be "well intentioned," but it is ineffective.

"Show and not tell" is the next grade up from "both sides" in cowardly journalism.

I think that the NYT’s leadership, perhaps in an effort to preserve the institution of the Times, is allowing itself to be boxed in and hamstrung.

After the 2016 election, I was worried that institutions would not save us, which, from the Fourth Estate to the Senate and the DoJ, proved true soon enough. Now I'm worried that institutions are tacitly supporting or outright collaborating with Trump to preserve whatever they regard as their natural status and their fiefdoms.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:43 AM on August 16 [2 favorites]


"And there are a lot of people that think The Times is too liberal, and when you start throwing words like that around, people will accuse us of editorializing."

In the first place, it's partly thanks to the media's quiescence that "liberal" has become a dirty word to people it should describe (meanwhile rightwing extremists are making headway in suppressing the descriptor "nazi"). In the second place, rightwing critics have been accusing the Gray Lady of editorializing for so long that it's internalized their attacks and is effectively self-censoring.
posted by Doktor Zed at 6:49 AM on August 16 [3 favorites]


"Show, don't tell" is for fiction

In journalism, tell

I learned that from working on a high school paper for god's sake
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:58 AM on August 16 [7 favorites]


Citing Economy, Trump Says That ‘You Have No Choice but to Vote for Me’ (Maggie Haberman and Peter Baker, NYT)
“You have the best unemployment, you have the most successful state in the history of your state and the history of our country,” he told a campaign rally in Manchester, N.H. “And then you’re going to vote for somebody else? Oh great. ‘Let’s vote for Elizabeth “Pocahontas” Warren. We have the best numbers we’ve ever had — let’s vote for somebody else.’”

Even as he derided Ms. Warren, a senator from next-door Massachusetts and a Democratic presidential candidate, with a racial slur, Mr. Trump acknowledged the deep antipathy many voters have for him but made the argument that they should put aside their distaste for their own economic well-being.

“You have no choice but to vote for me because your 401(k), everything is going to be down the tubes,” he told the crowd. “Whether you love me or hate me, you’ve got to vote for me.”
Emphasis added. Buffalo Springfield - Stop Children What's That Sound (YouTube)
posted by Little Dawn at 7:32 AM on August 16 [1 favorite]


(That song's called 'For What It's Worth')
posted by box at 7:43 AM on August 16 [4 favorites]


More fun quotes from NYT executive editor in that Slate article: "How do we write about race in a thoughtful way, something we haven’t done in a large way in a long time?”
posted by tivalasvegas at 4:41 PM on August 16 [1 favorite]


Maybe if they'd stayed in practice through the crack epidemic and the 1994 crime bill it wouldn't be such a challenge.
posted by rhizome at 7:20 PM on August 16


Jay Rosen has some more observations about what emerged from the NYT staff meeting and sees some small signs of possible change in that generational divide within the newsroom:
As a Times loyalist, I kind of resent the implication: Come join our resistance, New York Times! As if that’s what we want from the journalism, to do our politics for us. We’re not gonna be part of the resistance says nothing about how to provide less assistance to Trump’s othering instincts. We’re not gonna be part of the resistance doesn’t tell you what to do if Trump breaks through all barriers and runs a specifically racist campaign from the pulpit of the presidency.

... But now there’s a new factor. Some of the same dissatisfactions are shared by a younger and more diverse generation of Times journalists, people the organization cannot succeed without. The restiveness of this cohort changes the equation some. Instead of “we do Times journalism” vs. “please do resistance politics,” which is Baquet’s way of framing the choices — and dumbing down the debate — the next generation have made it about different ways to stand toward the staggering reality of Trump’s racism.

That’s a small change for now. But it could turn out to be big.
And here’s further commentary in a thread by Vox’s David Roberts.
What frustrates people is not that they want to see the word "racist" in the paper. What frustrates them is that the country's core institutions are under assault by a radical ethnonationalist minority & the sense of crisis is not being conveyed.
Instead it looks like the ethnonationalists & their increasingly authoritarian leaders/behavior are being continually normalized, smooshed into a bland both-sides paste. NYT is covering this like it's normal. THAT'S what bugs people.
posted by bitteschoen at 3:05 AM on August 17 [7 favorites]


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